Number of internet users in China exceeds US
According to the Chinese government, the number of web users in China have surpassed the US - even with the access restrictions. With only 19% of the population using the internet, there is plenty room for growth. However, even with an expanding number of power users and burgeoning business opportunities, many foreign companies are having difficulties integrating themselves with Chinese web users.
The United States had an estimated 223.1 million Internet users in June, according to Nielsen Online, a research firm. The Pew Internet and American Life Project puts U.S. online penetration at 71 percent.
"This is the first time the number has drastically surpassed the United States, becoming the world's No. 1," a CNNIC statement said.
The communist government encourages Internet use for business and education but tries to block access to Web sites deemed pornographic or subversive. Web surfers have been jailed for posting or e-mailing material that criticizes communist rule or is deemed a violation of vague national security laws.
Beijing blocks access to Web sites run by dissidents, human rights groups and some foreign news media. Web surfers were blocked from seeing Google Inc.'s YouTube and other foreign sites with video footage of anti-government protests in Tibet in March.
That same month, the government said it would shut down 25 Chinese video sites and punish 32 others for violating new rules against carrying content that is deemed pornographic, violent or a threat to national security.
Cultural differences lead to a necessity of differently structured spaces - whether it be architecture for a society or a website for a social community, it must all make sense to the target market. Prominent bloggers in China have commented on the disregard of foreign companies applying the same interface and apps with just a language change:
If I can make it there, it don't mean squat
Most American online companies suffer from the understandable conceit that if a site and its formula work in the United States, it will work around the world. A decade of history has proven this is not the case, but that has not prevented executives from assuming that Chinese will flock to a site in their own language simply because it has succeeded elsewhere.
Chinese users are almost cussedly picky. They want a site that was created for them, that addresses their concerns, their online culture, and the way they live. They don't like the feeling of getting something fed to them that was created for someone else. And if you feed it to them, they will either laugh at you - or just ignore you.
Any international online company that has lasted more than 24 months in this market (Google jumps to mind) has figured that out, and is working to recreate themselves as reflections of the Chinese culture, rather than Chinese adaptations of American culture.